Target Applauded for Ad Featuring Child With Down Syndrome

Opinion   |   Kristi Burton Brown   |   Jan 11, 2012   |   6:01PM   |   Washington, DC

Today, I was delighted to discover that the retail store, Target, featured a little boy with Down’s Syndrome as one of their models in last week’s ad. They didn’t specifically mention that the cute kid had Down’s Syndrome, but those who are paying attention will notice. A father who blogs about his son with Down’s Syndrome called attention to Target’s ad and praised the store for being inclusive of children with disabilities.
In this father’s words (he blogs as “Noah’s dad”): “They said that people born with Down syndrome deserve to be treated the same as every other person on this planet. They said it’s important for the world to see people born with disabilities with a fresh set of eyes. That it’s time for us to lay down all the inaccurate stereotypes from the past and move forward embracing the future with true and accurate ones.”

If only every parent believed their child with Down’s Syndrome deserved to be “treated the same as every other person on this planet.” A prenatal diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome is a death sentence for 92 percent of babies who receive this diagnosis. In 2009, ABC news reported that 92 percent of these parents choose to have an abortion.

Dr. Brian Skotko is a pediatric geneticist at Children’s Hospital Boston who does not believe that parents get accurate information often enough. He asks, “Are they making it [the decision to abort] on facts and up-to-date information? Research suggests not, and that mothers get inaccurate, incomplete and sometimes offensive information.”

Boston filmmaker Melanie McLaughlin chose to give birth to her daughter with Down’s Syndrome. Finding accurate information about the disorder is one of the things that convinced McLaughlin to keep her baby girl. First Call, a program sponsored by the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress allowed her to meet a family with a 5-year-old girl who has Down’s.

“She played hide and seek, and she kept jumping out, telling us where she was hiding,” McLaughlin said. “She was amazing. I was thinking she would be sitting in a chair unresponsive and drooling. Actually, she was much like our other children.”

Gail Udell, another mother who chose to give birth to her daughter with Down’s Syndrome, describes her experience in this way: “I am a better person and a better parent. We have a ways to go yet, but like everything else, she’ll get there. She is determined, fearless and happy.”

Lisa Aguilar, who has a son with Down’s Syndrome said, “I decided to keep him, no matter what. He is the happiest, kindest soul I have ever met. Daniel has taught me some valuable lessons about acceptance and love and being more compassionate.”

The bottom line is that parents who keep their children with Down’s Syndrome are overwhelmingly grateful that they did. These children seem to have an innate sense of how to show love, communicate joy, and bring a special light to their world.

It is hard to understand, however, how organizations and parents who support children with Down’s Syndrome still talk about abortion as an option for others. I checked out a couple national Down’s Syndrome organizations to see what their position on abortion was. Both of them mentioned it as an option for parents. One, thankfully, painted it in a bad light, but still gave the impression that the parents could choose.

Legally, yes, the parents can choose. But why are organizations whose purpose is to advocate for people with Down’s Syndrome even mentioning that their parents have the option to kill them? What other advocacy groups mention killing those they advocate for as an option? This is a sad state of affairs. I would expect these groups to attempt to talk parents out of abortion, but it seems that the majority of them either mention it as an option or take no position (like First Call).

As Melanie McLaughlin questions, what will be next in the list of things we don’t like about our children?

“They [mothers who choose abortion] don’t realize what they have given up. What if we don’t like brown eyes anymore? What have we lost and what does Down syndrome bring to society that we lose along the way?”

One final point. I want to see a world where every child is valued and welcomed, no matter their physical abilities or appearance, projected length of life, health condition, mental abilities, or anything else. While it’s true that parents are receiving inaccurate information about their little Down’s Syndrome babies, and they need to know how “normal” Down’s Syndrome people really are, it’s also true that babies who are not even close to “normal” deserve to be equally welcomed and loved.

Gabriel’s Story” is a touching and incredible story of parents who chose to love their baby no matter what. Read it and cry.

LifeNews Note:  Kristi Burton Brown is a pro-life activist in her home state of Colorado, a pro-bono attorney for Life Legal Defense Fund, and a stay-at-home mom. This column originally appeared at the Live Action blog.